REUTERS | Hannibal Hanschke

The idiom “all duck or no dinner, if you’re not familiar with it, means “all or nothing. I once worked for a partner that was quite fond of using it, particularly in the context of limitation periods and time bars: if you’re in time, your clients will usually have a smorgasbord of dispute resolution options open to them. If you’re out of time, they go hungry.

Construction contracts often include clauses requiring a party to notify the other party within a specified time if it wishes to make a claim. In some cases, time-bar notice provisions are more than a mere obligation, rather they are a condition precedent to a valid claim.

We are frequently advising clients about conditions precedent in construction contracts, particularly in relation to timely notices for extensions of time and/or loss and expense (for example, under a JCT contract) and compensation events (for example, under an NEC contract). But what about notice requirements for referring a dispute to adjudication? We can often fall back on the position under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (Construction Act), being that disputes may be referred to adjudication “at any time”. If the Construction Act doesn’t apply, the parties may agree to limit that right. Continue reading

REUTERS | Phil Noble

We will all be familiar with the questions asked and answered by solicitors in the lead up to the purchase of a house. For commercial property the same process is carried out but the stakes, at least financially, can be even higher. Pre-contract correspondence between solicitors can be a fertile ground for possible misrepresentation claims if a development does not go well.

The recent case of Wilson & Sharp Investments Ltd v Falmouth Property Investments Ltd raises some interesting points of law concerning misrepresentation claims, particularly between developers, and also important issues of procedure for summary judgment applications. Continue reading

REUTERS | Jonathan Drake

Earlier this year I found myself waiting for the Court of Appeal to bring the next instalment in a series of interesting decisions regarding subrogation claims in insurance disputes (not a contradiction in terms, I promise!), which I and my colleague John have been taking it in turns to blog about (see Joint insurance and rights of subrogation revisited and Co-insurance and subrogation rights revisited (again!)). Unfortunately (though perhaps not for those involved) the case in question (Haberdashers‘ Aske’s Federation Trust Ltd v Lakehouse Contracts Ltd and others) settled.

But it feels as though there’s been a missed opportunity to answer a question that was left entirely open in Gard Marine and Energy Ltd v China National Chartering Company Ltd: where there is a co-insurance policy in place and a sub-contractor causes loss, if the co-insurance policy (for whatever reason) does not cover the sub-contractor, can the insurer bring a subrogated claim against the sub-contractor or, does it first have to prove the sub-contractor is liable for the loss?    Continue reading

REUTERS | Maxim Shemetov

Picture this scenario. The parties’ contract provides that when there is a dispute, an adjudicator is to be appointed from a panel of three, which the parties have already agreed on. In the alternative, if the parties cannot agree the identity of the three panel adjudicators, they will be nominated by the President of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) as the adjudicator nominating body (ANB). In the event, the parties fail to agree on who the three should be, and then one of them is unhappy with who the CIArb selects.

This scenario played out before Jefford J earlier this year. It was, in effect, a dispute about a dispute, but led to some interesting comments from the judge about adjudicator nomination.

Continue reading

REUTERS | David Gray

Anyone who has used a GPS knows that sometimes the shortest route can take a mighty long time. On a trip to Pebbly Beach in New South Wales it took me down a little dirt road with so many potholes it resembled swiss cheese. If that wasn’t bad enough, the road led to a dead end, necessitating a slow drive back, in reverse, trying not to get trapped with no mobile phone service.

Preliminary issues hearings carry the risk of becoming much like that shortcut, at least for the parties in Walter Lilly v Clin as they navigated the equally treacherous terrain of court procedure. Unfortunately the preliminary issues hearing, while supposed to assist with resolving their dispute, failed to achieve its aims and ended up taking the parties through four hearings spread out over four years, lengthening and adding to the expense of the court process.

In this post I look at the difficulties that arose in the case and discuss some key considerations to bear in mind when framing a preliminary issue. But first, let’s have a quick recap of the procedural history and the facts.  Continue reading

REUTERS | Ali Hashisho

In a blog I posted soon after the FIDIC 2017 contracts were launched, I commented that the vast majority of the changes in the second editions related to enhanced contract management provisions. There are many elements to these provisions including stricter formalities for notices, many more situations in which notices have to be given and a greater number of time limits, deeming provisions and potential time-bars. The purpose behind these changes is essentially twofold; they are aimed at providing greater clarity and certainty and at encouraging the parties to deal with issues as they arise. The increased number of potential time-bars has been a particular source of discussion and debate. By their nature, this is hardly surprising given the potentially onerous consequences that follow from them. In this blog, I look at the intention behind these provisions and the issues that may arise in practice. Continue reading

REUTERS | Erik De Castro

In January, in the second of the two conjoined appeals of Bresco Electrical Services Ltd v Michael J Lonsdale (Electrical) Ltd, Cannon Corporate Ltd v Primus Build Ltd, the Court of Appeal upheld the first instance decision to enforce an adjudicator’s decision where the enforcing party was in a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

In contrast, last week in Indigo Projects London Ltd v Razin and another, the court refused to enforce an adjudicator’s decision where the enforcing party was in a CVA. The reasoning was that enforcement of the decision would interfere with the accounting exercise to be carried out under the CVA. The court provided useful guidance on when this argument is likely to succeed.  Continue reading

REUTERS | Yves Herman

In recent months, we haven’t seen many challenges to adjudicator’s decisions based on allegations that the adjudicator breached the rules of natural justice, and so it came as a bit of a surprise last week to see two handed-down by the same judge on the same day!

Jefford J has dealt with these cases in her customary detailed manner,  leaving no stone unturned. My thoughts on RGB P&C Ltd v Victory House General Partner Ltd and JJ Rhatigan & Co (UK) Ltd v Rosemary Lodge Developments Ltd are as follows. Continue reading

REUTERS |

Build UK, a leading representative organisation for the construction industry, has published a non-binding recommendation on which contract terms its members should (as a minimum) refrain from using. The recommendation “seeks to form a new common ground between clients and the supply chain on contractual practice in the construction sector” with the key objectives being “to promote collaboration, encourage a fairer allocation of risk through the supply chain, and deliver better project outcomes”.

In this blog I look at each of Build UK’s recommendations and consider whether they represent a departure from current market practice, or a consolidation of the examples of best practice that we are already seeing clients and contractors adopting in the current market. Continue reading